Monday, August 3, 2009

What Does a Stay at Home Mom Look Like?

Over a year ago, a neighbor friend gave me an odd "compliment":

"You look great. You don't look like a stay at home mom!"


On that particular day, I showed up at her house around 4:30 pm with my 10 month old son, who was going to play with her 8 month old son. I happened to have brushed my hair and put on lip gloss before heading out the door. Not something I feel the need to do all the time, but not something that is completely out of character, either. She, on the other hand, worked at an official job all day, and so always left the house pulled together.

It got me wondering: What is a stay at home mom supposed to look like anyway? For that matter, what is a mom supposed to look like? Short haircut or sensible ponytail? Capris, mom jeans (remember the Saturday Night Live video?), blah dressing? No makeup because there was no time for it, and various stains on the wrinkled t-shirt?

One of the best books on mamahood is "The Yummy Mummy Manifesto" by Anna Johnson (who also wrote "Three Black Skirts.") In her chapter "Common Fashion Sins of the Mother" Anna advises moms to "forget fighting the visible signs of aging and instead battle against the suffocation of smart casuals." I'll quickly list her seven sins of maternal style:

1. the anchorwoman bob

2. the cardigan

3. the sensible shoe

4. the over-functioning handbag

5. the neutral palette

6. the cargo pant

7. the crew neck

I'm so guilty of numbers 3, 4, and 6! But what's a mom to wear/carry when she's running after a toddler in the park, with an infant strapped to her in a Baby Bjorn?

So I asked the Universe for an answer, and I found a muse, if not an answer. Lucky Magazine posted in its "June Inspiration Board" a picture of Elle Macpherson that blows me away. Some photographer snapped her photo as she was biking her son to school. She looked unbelievably good. Gladiator sandals, designer skirt, ruffled black top with a pile of long necklaces, undone bombshell hair, aviator glasses. I know she's a model, and she's not working within the constrains of breastfeeding and two children in diapers, but she really did have it goin' on.

What can real moms take away from the analysis of Anna Johnson and our muse, Elle Macpherson? How about these:

  • Think about how adding flair to your daily outfit might add to your mood or spirit and then go for it - wear some pink pumas or a leopard-print belt - add something to spruce up your outfit even if you are only going to the grocery store or park that day. You are dressing for you.

  • Resist the urge to conform - when I practiced law I felt the need to dress like a Washington, DC lawyer - very corporate and blah. Now, I feel the urge to dress sensibly and in a way that does not stand out as the most ridiculously overdressed SAHM at the playgroup. Perhaps there is a middle ground between function/uniform and over-the-top that allows for the expression of individuality and for you to roll on the living room floor with your toddler. One mama's way of noncomformity might be rock star eye makeup while another's might be some dark wash skinny jeans instead of the usual cargo pants.

  • Find a muse and forge a signature style. Bedhead + aviators ala Elle Macpherson or boho mamas like Kate Hudson and Nicole Richie or black eyeliner and art deco bracelets - figure out what you like and make it your style.

The bottom line is that a mama should do what makes her feel inspired and creative. Bonus: being camera-ready for any lurking paparazzi out there. = )

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